Apart from the typical menstrual cramps that is commonly experienced by women during their period, changes in bowel movement are also common throughout the monthly menstrual cycle. Bowel movement changes during menstruation can include constipation, diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements.
This article will discuss more on the possible reasons that can affect bowel movements during period.
- Increased muscle contractions
Just before menstruation, prostaglandin will be released by the body which plays an important role in digestive disorders around the time of menstruation. Prostaglandin is a hormone which stimulates muscle contractions in the uterus that is intended to help the body remove the uterus lining during menstruation. It is hypothesised that the contraction signals are also sent to the intestines and bowel as they are close to the uterus. They would then need to evacuate in the same way as the uterus which explains the diarrhea or frequent bowel movement.
- Increased progesterone
Progesterone is another hormone produced by the ovaries which increases gradually throughout the cycle and reaches its maximum level right before the start of period. Progesterone alters the muscle contractions that move food through the intestine, causing constipation.
- Increased stress or anxiety
Some women experience mood swings or increased anxiety levels during their menstruation. Stress is known to affect a person’s bowel movements causing constipation or diarrhea.
We are unable to alter the hormones fluctuation or how the body reacts before and during period. However, diet and lifestyle changes can reduce the impact of period-related digestive health disturbance some of which includes:
- Eating plenty of natural fiber, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, and caffeine.
- Be physically active
Nonetheless, if the digestive disturbance is interrupting with your daily life, you can talk to a doctor about the best treatment options as some hormonal birth control such as oral contraceptive pill can reduce PMS symptoms in some women by regulating hormone levels.
- Bernstein MT, Graff LA, Avery L, Palatnick C, Parnerowski K, Targownik LE. Gastrointestinal symptoms before and during menses in healthy women. BMC women’s health. 2014 Dec;14(1):1-7.
- Stress and the sensitive gut – Harvard health publishing [Internet]. Harvard Health. 2019 [cited 13Jan2023]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/stress-and-the-sensitive-gut